Despite becoming a household name following his Grand Slam debut against Roger Federer, Sumit Nagal has struggled to get new sponsorships and has for support to stay afloat. Latest ATP rankings have made Nagal India’s second highest-ranked tennis player as he leapfrogged Ramkumar Ramanathan.
The 22-year-old earned himself new admirers at the Flushing Meadows when he came out swinging in his Grand Slam main draw debut to win the opening set against Federer in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York Though he eventually went down 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to the 20-time Grand Slam Champion, Nagal admitted he was the happiest.
However, life wasn’t always so dreamlike for the youngster. It was back in 2005 when Nagal’s talent was first spotted by Mahesh Bhupathi during one of the trials of his academy and Nagal was chosen from thousands of youngsters. But, the programme shut down after two years leaving 12-year-old Nagal’s dream handing and he had to return to Delhi to pause his play.
"I had thoughts of giving up. I had only played five days in two months," he said, reported Reuters.
It was, however, a call from Bhupathi that later brought Nagal back to the game but the financial constraints he faced were constant and exists even today. "It's been tough. I didn't have a sponsor who would say 'yes I am going to cover your whole year's cost'. Coming from India where you don't earn so much and I was spending through euros or dollars all the time. It wasn't easy. But I did survive those years,” Nagal added.
It wasn’t until 2017 when the Virat Kohli Foundation, a philanthropic organisation run by India's cricket team captain, offered him a scholarship, while state-owned Indian Oil offered him employment and Nagal found stablity.
However, stability isn’t enough for a tennis player to continue competing in tournaments, and even after becoming the Indian to play Federer in Grand Slam, Nagal says he has not been approached by any new sponsors.
"I definitely hope (to get more support)," said Nagal, currently ranked 174 in the world. "Nothing has changed for me. I am still playing tournaments I am supposed to play. I will try to get my rank as high as possible before the Australian Open,” Nagal concluded.
It was Sumit Nagal’s longer than expected run in the US Open that saw the India youngster earning as many as 35 valuable points. Consequently, he became the second-highest ranked Indian in the ATP world rankings released on Monday. He is now sitting at the 174th position, ahead of Ramkumar Ramanathan.